KUALA LUMPUR: Ousted Malaysian premier Najib Razak is already in hot water over allegations he looted state funds, but his legal woes could worsen as calls grow for a fresh look at an even darker past scandal involving the grisly slaying of a young model.
The lurid earlier affair centred on allegations that Malaysian officials took huge kickbacks in the 2002 purchase of Scorpene submarines from France when Najib was defence minister.
The sensational saga transfixed Malaysia for years until the authoritarian former regime used its leverage to eventually bury it, though whispers persist that Najib, 64, and his wife Rosmah Mansor were deeply involved.
But Najib was trounced in a stunning May 9 election and Malaysia´s new government has vowed to investigate not only current allegations that Najib stole billions from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, but also lift the lid on other unresolved scandals under the graft-plagued former government.
“We are very encouraged by the quick moves so far on (1MDB) and that the government is taking previous corruption seriously,” said Cynthia Gabriel, who heads the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), a Malaysian NGO.
“In this regard, scandals like Scorpene cannot be ignored. Pressure is building and its going to get more interesting.”
Najib´s immediate concern is allegations that he, his family, and cronies pillaged billions from 1MDB. He is barred from leaving Malaysia and police have seized large amounts of cash, jewels and luxury items from his home and other sites.
But 1MDB pales in many ways to the Scorpene affair, which has sex, submarines, assassins on the run, and an unfortunate Mongolian model and translator.
It centres on allegations that French submarine maker DCNS paid “commissions” of more than 114 million euros ($134 million) to a shell company linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, a close Najib associate who brokered the $1.1 billion submarine deal.
Najib´s opponents said the payments were kickbacks.
Abdul Razak´s Mongolian mistress Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was said to have demanded a payoff for working as a translator in negotiations, was shot dead, her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur in 2006.